Branded Search Campaigns: Should You Bid on Your Brand Name?

We’ve managed SEM (search engine marketing) campaigns for more than 10 years now, and one of the questions we get asked on a regular basis is “should we have a branded search campaign?” Or to phrase it differently, “should I bid on my brand name?”

And there’s a reason we get asked this question again and again. After all, shouldn’t a company rank really well organically for its own name? In theory, the answer to that is “yes,” but that doesn’t mean branded search campaigns are a bad idea. In fact—spoiler alert—we recommend them in almost every single circumstance.

For clarification, when we talk about “branded searches” we’re referring specifically to your company’s brand name (the name of your company)—not the brand names of products you offer.

But first, a little 101….

Wait, What Is Branded Search?

Branded search is a marketing tactic where you tell a search engine, such as Google or Microsoft, to show an ad when someone searches for your company (brand) name. You then pay if someone clicks that ad.

Yep, branded search is just a standard SEM, also known as a PPC (pay per click), campaign that uses your brand name as the triggering keyword.

So… Should You Do Branded Search?

Yes.

End of article.

Okay, it’d be awesome if you trusted us enough to just take our word for it, but if that isn’t the case … if our relationship isn’t quite there yet … here are six reasons you should be doing branded search!

#1 – Your site isn’t search engine friendly.

Look, the number one argument against doing branded search campaigns or bidding on your brand name is that your website should organically rank in the number-one position. After all, who better to provide relevant and current information relating to your brand than you?

However, does your site come up at the top of page one for branded searches?

Even if your website is a shining example of SEO best practices, the answer is likely “not always,” thanks to competitors, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

And if your website isn’t besties with Google, there’s a very good chance the answer is “no.” If your site is slow, unwieldy on mobile devices and lacks original content, there’s a good chance you are not organically showing up as number one for your brand name. You may need to pay for that privilege in the form of a branded search campaign.

#2 – Your competitors are bidding on your brand name.

Remember a minute ago when we said that even a well-optimized site may benefit from a branded search campaign thanks to competition? Well, let’s talk about that now.

Believe it or not, Google is in the business of making money… and that means they’re more than happy to let competitors pay to show ads for your company/brand name. (And to be fair, it isn’t just Google; Microsoft will also let competitors pay to show up for someone else’s name!)

This means that even if your website is showing up in the first organic position, since a paid ad shows up at the very top of the page, someone could be showing above you! Even BIG companies and well-known brands have to deal with this type of conquesting by competitors.

If you don't do a branded search campaign a competitor may bid on your brand name

If you’re in a competitive industry (which means most spaces), a branded search campaign can help you keep competitors from showing up at the top of page one for your company or brand name.

Even if you rank number one organically, running a branded search campaign can be a great way to really own the SERP (search engine results page), which brings us to …

#3 – You can dominate the SERP.

Have you ever seen a webpage that has an advertiser doing a takeover? This is where every single ad slot on the page (and sometimes even the background) are for the same company, product or service.

You can accomplish something similar on the SERP.

Having a website that ranks well organically, showing information in the Knowledge Graph (box on the right-hand side of the SERP) and running a branded search campaign can allow your brand to essentially “take over” the SERP.

A branded search campaign with good organic placement and a spot in the knowledge graph can mean SERP domination

This type of SERP takeover can be a psychologically powerful marketing tactic that really makes an impression on searchers.

#4 – You can control the impression you make and the post-click experience.

You can spend hours (or days) crafting the perfect page titles and meta descriptions to ensure your site makes a killer first impression on the SERP, but Google (and other search engines) may ignore your wishes entirely. Google may decide to show different copy that it has deemed more relevant than your well-thought-out meta description or it may truncate your meta description.

In addition, not all branded searches have the same intent—so it may not be appropriate to send every branded search query to whichever page is ranking well organically (most likely your home page).

These are things that can be difficult, if not impossible, to control from an SEO standpoint. However, when you run a branded search campaign you have total control over the ad content and which landing page people are being directed to.

For example, let’s say your brand has had some negative reviews on Yelp. For any branded search around the term reviews (ex. “Fictional Company Reviews”), you could show a specially crafted ad that controls the narrative. You could direct individuals to a testimonials landing page with legitimate customer reviews. The point here is not to lie to or mislead potential customers—but rather to provide them with a relevant experience that speaks to their needs.

You can also provide more information in a paid ad than you can in a run-of-the-mill organic SERP listing. (Note—you can enhance a SERP listing by using things like structured snippets and site search but that’s a whole blog post on its own!).

Using extensions in a branded search campaign can allow you to provide searches with additional information

For example, with Google, you can use site extensions like sitelink extensions, call extensions and even promotion extensions to provide the searcher with a wealth of information.

#5 – You can generate more leads.

If your website isn’t the easiest to navigate, a branded search campaign may offer the opportunity to generate more leads. For example, a call extension may prompt a searcher to click-to-call from his or her mobile device, without ever actually visiting your website. This can be especially beneficial if your phone number isn’t readily apparent, such as in the header of your website.

In addition, Google’s lead extensions can allow potential customers to request more information right from the search results without ever leaving Google. This can be especially beneficial if your website is a bit slow and users are likely to click the back button before ever making it to your contact page or lead form.

Even if your website is simply magnificent, searchers—especially those using cell towers versus a WiFi connection—may prefer the most convenient way to make contact … which would obviously be right from the SERP!

#6 – You can increase overall site traffic.

Approximately five years ago, Bing (Microsoft) did a study on the overlap between branded search campaign clicks and organic clicks. Bing wanted to understand whether branded search campaigns cannibalize organic clicks. The study found that there is approximately 11% overlap between the two. However, when a brand ad was present, approximately 31% more clicks were received—clicks that would not have been received without a branded search campaign! Here’s an excerpt from the study:

When brands did not display a brand ad on their results pages, retail brands received 60 percent of the clicks to their top organic listing; on brand travel results pages, 61 percent of people clicked the brands’ top organic listing. But, when the brands had ads in the top mainline position, retail brands received 91 percent of the clicks and travel brands scored 88 percent of the clicks on their results pages. That’s a gain of 31 percent more clicks for retail brands and 27 percent more for travel brands when a brand ad displays.” (Source.)

A study by bing founded that branded search campaigns can increase incremental ad traffic

That’s right—by not running a branded search campaign you could be missing out on clicks … a lot of clicks.

So … are you on board with running a branded search campaign? Hopefully these six reasons have shown you how important they can be to maximize your search engine presence and the amount of site traffic and leads you receive.

If you’re ready to move ahead with a new branded search campaign, do keep these important tips in mind.

Our Top Branded Search Campaign Tips.

#1 – Have a dedicated campaign.

Even though the clicks can be pretty cheap, bidding on your brand name can eat into your overall SEM budget. With that in mind, it’s a great idea to create a standalone campaign for your branded search queries. Having a separate campaign will allow you to control campaign level settings like budget, geo targeting, etc.

Extra tip: If your budget is extremely tight and you’re confident in your organic ranking, consider limiting your branded search campaign to just mobile devices. On mobile devices, a competitor’s ad plus the local pack (map with local business listings)—if applicable—can push all organic placements below the fold. And you never want to ask people to scroll!

#2 – Don’t just bid on your brand name.

Don’t just dump your brand name into a campaign and call it a day. Remember, one of the benefits of branded search campaigns is controlling not only the message but also the post-click experience. Think of different searches a potential customer might make around your brand name. Build different ad groups and ads around those various queries. And of course, use the most appropriate landing page.

Someone who is looking for reviews of your company should see an ad assuring them that you have the information they’re seeking … and the landing page should provide that information.

However, you probably do not want to show up for all queries related to your brand name, which brings us to …

#3 – Use negative keywords!

Negative keywords are how you can tell a search engine, like Google, when not to show your ad. This may vary from business to business, but in most places you probably do not want to pay for clicks by job seekers. In that case, you would add things like “employment,” “jobs,” and “careers” as negative keywords to your branded search campaign.

To help you start thinking about what negative keywords to add to your branded search campaign, we’ve created a list of 129 potential negative keywords. Sign up below to get a free copy.

Extra tip: Don’t just blindly add all of these negative keywords to your branded search campaign. Evaluate each one to see if it’s a fit for your company. Some queries you may want to show an ad for but you’ll want to create a separate ad group and control the user experience.

When used appropriately, branded search campaigns can be an asset to your other marketing tactics. They are a cost-effective way to reach people who obviously are at least slightly familiar with your brand … and to control the message and post-click experience those people see and receive. However, to make bidding on your brand name an effective strategy, there are best practices you should follow. If you need additional assistance maximizing the ROI of your SEM campaigns, branded or otherwise, St. Gregory is here to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consult. We’ve worked with Google and Microsoft Ads for more than a decade and are Google Ads certified!